The meeting house Nga Tau e Waru at Te Ore Ore Marae just east of Masterton celebrated its centenary in 1980. When Goldie and Mary Potangaroa shared the significance of that anniversary with their grandson Robin they planted a seed that would change his life.
“When I went home for school holidays my grandparents often spoke of a family ancestor, Poara Potangaroa, who had gathered his people together to build the original meeting house in the mid-1870s and who also made a number of prophecies,” Robin says.
When Goldie passed away in 1989 Robin realised that the opportunity to learn more about ancestors like Poara was diminishing.
“I saw that in terms of knowing about our family history and whakapapa we were pretty desolate. So I returned to spend time with my grandmother Mary as often as I could to listen to and record our family, marae, hapu and tribal history.”
Mary shared with her grandson the importance of whakapapa and how that created connections to other families.
Little did Robin realise at the time that these conversations would lead him to take on a role as a treaty negotiator and trustee for Ngaati Kahungungu ki Wairarapa ki Tamaki nui a Rua which encompasses the Wairarapa and Tararua districts.
Learning of the importance of his ancestor’s contribution to tribal history has been not only enlightening, but rewarding as he explains.
“Poara Potangaroa had chiefly connections to both Nga–ti Kahungungu and Rangitane iwi within the Wairarapa district and was recognised from the early 1860s as a prophet and leader. As we learn more about his prophecies we get a better sense of what he was attempting to encourage in relation to our rights as a people.
“I think learning about someone like our ancestor Poara means we have to re-engage with our whanau marae and the ability to do that has become more important as we emerge from a treaty settlement environment. For myself I see that outcome as a fulfilment of his prophecy.”
Reported by Amokura Panaho for our AA Directions Winter 2017 issue